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Buckingham Family Medicine closure delayed

Sentara Martha Jefferson Medical Group announced plans to delay the closure of Sentara Buckingham Family Medicine in Dillwyn.

According to a release issued Friday morning, Sept. 18, the company, which planned to close the Buckingham office Friday, Oct. 30, will now continue operating it through Dec. 23.

When the planned closure was announced in early September, officials cited the primary reason behind Buckingham Family Medicine’s impending shutdown as an inability to recruit a new primary physician after Dr. Richard Muller, the only physician at the practice, made the decision to transition to a part-time position at Sentara Spring Creek Family Medicine in Zion Crossroads.

Many community members were saddened by the news of the expected closure of one of the area’s only medical practices, igniting a petition to keep the office open and even inspiring a local March for Medical Care, sponsored by the Buckingham Chamber of Commerce.

“While we’re very pleased with this small win for the people of Buckingham and our county, we’re going to continue to work with Sentara to find a long-term solution to keeping health care options in our county, and the people of Buckingham deserve nothing less than that,” District 4 Supervisor and chamber member Thomas Jordan Miles III said.

On Friday, Sept. 18, Miles said he and County Administrator Rebecca Carter met earlier in the week with officials from Central Virginia Health Services, who will be bringing on more staff and providers and expanding offerings in order to take on any additional clients resulting from the possible closure of Buckingham Family Medicine.

“We’re very lucky to have them in the county,” he said. “I believe that Sentara through this action of delaying their closing is recognizing the importance that their facility has in the county, and we’ve had well over 1,300 people sign this petition that we’ve got going.

On Friday, officials stated Muller will continue to see patients on a part-time basis at Spring Creek beginning January of 2021 as he transitions to retirement. Additionally, Jennifer Stancil, nurse practitioner at Buckingham Family Medicine, will transition to Spring Creek beginning December 1.

“Originally, the announced date for Dr. Muller’s transition was at the end of October,” Bruce Clemons, vice president and executive director of Sentara said. “However, after hearing from the community, the decision has been made to keep Sentara Buckingham Family Medicine open through December 23.

“To be clear, we know this extension does not erase the concerns expressed by patients in the community who are worried about the long-term health care needs of Buckingham County. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible while ensuring that patients continue to have access to timely, quality care going forward. It is our hope that by keeping the practice open until the Christmas holiday, this will ensure patients and staff can plan accordingly.”

In the release, Clemons highlighted the challenges faced by rural health care practices and hospitals around the commonwealth.

“While it remains difficult to attract talented medical professionals to smaller practices, COVID-19 has shown the potential of telemedicine, and we hope to continue to use this technology to make it easier for patients to connect with our physicians, including Dr. Muller,” Clemons said.

Clemons also stated Sentara will be working with the staff at the Central Virginia Health Services clinic located in New Canton to ensure patients who choose not to transition to Spring Creek continue to receive the quality care they are accustomed to.

“Should patients wish to seek care at Sentara Spring Creek Family Medicine, they will receive the same level of quality care there as they have been used to receiving at Sentara Buckingham Family Medicine,” he said.